Rights defenders call for campaign against NGO bill drafted by Ministry of Justice

posted 8 Feb 2016, 06:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 Feb 2016, 06:48 ]
1 February 2016

Source: HRO.org (info)
Prominent Russian human rights defenders, including Liudmila Alekseeva, Svetlana Gannushkina, Valery Borshchev, Igor Kalyapin, Natalya Taubina, Oleg Orlov, Aleksandr Cherkasov, Lev Ponomarev and others, have called for a campaign against the proposed NGO bill put forward by the Ministry of Justice, Novaya gazeta reports.

“If this bill is adopted as law, independent NGOs can be completely wiped out. The authorities want, just as in the totalitarian Soviet times, that the only NGOs existing should be under their control, similar to the Soviet trade unions that were mere conduits for government policy,” the human rights defenders state.

The statement was addressed to members of the political parties, members of the Presidential Human Rights Council, and ombudsman Ella Pamfilova.

The human rights defenders list seven points from the Ministry of Justice’s bill which the Ministry considers signs of so-called “political activity” in the work of NGOs. And they come to the conclusion that the wording of the legislation allows the inclusion of any NGO on the “foreign agent” register.

By doing this, the legislation tears apart the links between civil society and state bodies, depriving civil society organisations of the right to life in Russia.

The full text is produced below.

The Ministry of Justice annihilates independent NGOs

A bill has been drawn up by The Ministry of Justice clearly specifying the meaning of “political activity” of non-profit organisations. Unlike the democratic world where activity is considered political if it involves a struggle for political power, on the territory of the Russian Federation practically any public activity is declared to be ‘political’.

We cite almost the whole text of the bill “On the introduction of changes to Article 2, Point 6, of the Federal Law ‘On non-commercial organisations’ “ in support for this view.

According to this bill, political activity includes:

“1) taking part in the organisation or staging of public actions in the form of gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and picketing, or various combinations of these forms, in the organisation and staging of public discussions and speeches;

2) taking part in activity directed towards achieving a defined result in elections, referendums, in the observation of the conduct of elections, referendums, in the formation of electoral commissions, referendum commissions, in the activity of political parties;

3) public appeals to with government bodies, local self-governing bodies, their serving officers and any other actions bearing influence on their activity (here and further on italicized by the authors), including those aimed at the passing, changing, or abolition of laws or of any other legal acts;

4) the dissemination, including by means of contemporary information technologies, of assessment of decisions by state bodies or of the policies they are carrying out;

5) carrying out activity directed towards the formation of social and political views and beliefs, even including through conducting and publication of public opinion polls and other sociological research;

6) involvement of citizens, including those who are under age, in the aforementioned activity;

7) funding of the aforementioned activity.” 

Moreover, in the explanatory note to the bill, it is also pointed out that “regulation of human and civil rights and freedoms” is also classified as ‘political activity’.

However, in the bill it is noted that: “Activities that are not to be classified as ‘political’ are those in the spheres of science, culture, art, health care, health care and the protection of the health of citizens, social service, social support and protection of citizens, the protection of mothers and babies, social support for invalids, propaganda for a healthy life style, physical recreation and sport, the protection of flora and fauna, charitable activity, including activity in the sphere of cooperative relief work and voluntary work on conditions that this activity is not conducted for the aims set out in the second paragraph point 6 of the current Article, or go beyond the limits of the corresponding field of activity.”

This means that the stated exception is of absolutely no value, insofar as it is not operative where the activity of the organisation corresponds to at least one of the all-embracing seven points listed above (this is the “second paragraph of point 6 of the current Article”).

Any non-government organisation is created by citizens with the aim of changing a situation that is not to their liking, influencing what happens in the country, including influencing the activity of officials and government bodies, and shaping public opinion.

Essentially, this bill declares any NGO activity as political and in doing so:

- establishes a total ban on NGO funding from abroad, since any NGO can therefore become a “foreign agent”;

- establishes a total ban on aid to NGOs from Russian business, since Russian business will not fund an NGO taking part in “political activity”;

- creates a basis for the introduction of further restrictions on NGOs “taking part in political activity” by means of categorizing all NGO in this manner.

If this bill is adopted as law, independent NGOs can be completely wiped out.

The authorities want, just as in the totalitarian Soviet times, that the only NGOs existing should be under their control, similar to the Soviet trade unions that were mere conduits for government policy.

We are convinced that it is impossible to kill off civil society in contemporary Russia. Now it is being pushed into the margins and being deprived of legitimate possibilities to communicate with the government. Civil society will look for new ways of existing.

We call on the Presidential Human Rights Council, the Federal Human Rights Ombudsman, civil society organisations and political parties to support our statement and to join in a public campaign against this bill.


Member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, L.M. Alekseyeva
Member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, V.V. Borshchev
Member of the board of Citizens’ Watch Y.I. Vdovin
Chair of the Civic Assistance Committee, S.A. Gannushkina
Member of the presidential Human Rights Council, chair of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture I.A. Kalypin
Co-chair of the board of the Golos movement G.A. Melkonyants
Member of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre O.P. Orlov
Executive director of the movement For Human Rights L.A. Ponomarev
Director of the Public Verdict Foundation N.E.Taubina
Chair of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Centre A.V. Cherkasov
Executive director of the Golos Foundation L.V. Shibanova

Translated by Frances Robson